291. Backchannel Message From the Chief of the Delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Smith) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

422. Dear Henry:

Replying to your WH21440,2 status of unresolved SALT issues is as follows:

SLBM Limits. Soviets were given this morning new US proposal for Article III of interim ageement and associated protocol reflecting guidance in State 89509.3 New version includes all types of SLBM launchers in 950 limit, but could be modified if necessary to fall back to position of limiting only “modern” (SS–NX–6, SS–NX–8, or any newer) SLBM launchers. Texts being sent septel to Washington with copy to you.
Form of SLBM Agreement. Soviets probably will accept concept of generalized Article III and formal signed protocol, although their present position is for exchange of letters.
SLBM Launchers Operational and Under Construction. Delegation pressing for agreed definitions as follows: “The parties understand that SLBM launchers ‘under construction’ are those SLBM launchers on submarines which are on building ways, in launch basins, being fitted out, or on sea trials, and that ‘operational’ SLBM launchers include those on submarines undergoing conversion or overhaul.” Soviets agree with US definition of “operational,” but have not accepted US definition of “under construction” (and have not proposed alternative). Delegation believes Soviets are keeping flexible position on “under construction” point while negotiating SLBM levels.
Replacement SLBM Launchers. Provision outlining guidelines for replacement of SLBM launchers or older ICBM launchers by new SLBM launchers being negotiated. Delegation believes compromise can be reached along following lines: [Page 840]

“Dismantling or destruction of SLBM and older ICBM launchers to be replaced by new SLBM launchers shall be accomplished by the time the replacement submarine becomes operational. Such dismantling or destruction, and prior notification thereof, shall be accomplished under procedures to be agreed in the Standing Consultative Commission.” This could be either a paragraph in the interim agreement, or an agreed interpretive statement.

Heavy ICBM. Delegation pressing for agreed statement defining “heavy” ICBM, but judges Soviets unlikely to agree. Soviets may agree to statement on silo dimensions along following lines: “The parties understand that in the process of modernization and replacement there shall be no significant increase in the dimensions of land-based ICBM silo launchers.” Delegation has sent also to Washington statement put to you (0421)4 with revised unilateral statement on “heavy” ICBMs. Possible outcome might be agreed statement on silo dimensions, and whatever unilateral statement US may want to make on what constitutes “heavy” ICBM.
Location of ICBM Defense Area. Delegation is pressing for agreed statement that ICBM defense area would be: (1) east of Urals or west of Mississippi; or (2) in non-European part of USSR or west of Mississippi; or (3) at least 1500 kilometers from national capital. Delegation no longer favors unilateral statement along lines suggested in USDEL SALT VII 1358, and if necessary would leave outcome of this issue for summit.
OLPARs. Delegation expects to make authorized unilateral statement on OLPARs tomorrow morning if negotiations make clear that agreed interpretive statement not possible, but we are still pressing for agreed statement.

In this fast moving situation, delegation plans to update this status report as appropriate. Delegation assumes it will be conducting negotiation through Wednesday.5

Warm regards.

Gerard Smith
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 427, Backchannel Files, Backchannel Messages, 1972 SALT. Top Secret; Flash; Sensitive; Exclusive; Eyes Only. Copies were sent to Haig, Howe, and Odeen.
  2. In backchannel message WH21440 to Smith, May 21, Kissinger asked for “an up-to-date assessment of where matters stand in SALT” for his use upon arrival at the summit. (Ibid.)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 288.
  4. Document 290.
  5. May 24.